Saturday, July 19, 2014

Influential Reading

Like many readers, there are stand-out books that have influenced my life significantly. Ignoring the obvious answers of In Deep Dark Wood and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (my first favourite book, and the first book in a series that would get me hooked on books), the fiction options dwindle significantly.

Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak threw me into his books quickly, which lead to his overall influence on my life. That was important for me, at age 12, to find a new series that I could read, a new author whose books I adored.

But the non-fiction is where the biggest changes have occurred in the past few years.

When I got my hands on Tim Ferriss's The Four-Hour Work Week, it opened up my mind to the idea that I didn't necessarily have to live a standard life. I didn't have to restrict myself to the idea of working a 9-5 job, if it ever came down to that.

However, it wasn't a full set of answers.

It was Americanised. It presumed prior knowledge or prior work experience. It presumed that I wanted to live my life in a particular way, and it avoided one very important issue: how did I want to earn a living?

While Ferriss's idea of a four-hour work week was appealing (except, you know, if you get paid by the hour), it wasn't for me. I didn't want to set up or own a business I didn't believe in. I would rather work 40 hours at something I loved and could talk about passionately than to do four hours of maintenance per week on a business that was just a source of income.

I couldn't sell the idea to myself.

When I read Nicholas Lovell's The Curve, things changed. I had a model to follow a little more closely. I could see how I could run a business I loved, on a time-scale similar to that Ferriss presented. I could see the value of free, I could see how what I wanted to do in life could be both fun and profitable.

I was almost there.

I had a near-ideal model. I had an explanation of how that model might work for me. All I needed was something to make that model make sense to me passionately.

Enter Syd Field's Screenplay.

I know what you might be thinking. That's not a business book. Hollywood is incredibly competitive. Blah-blah-blah. It's a dream. It's an aspiration. It's something to strive for. But that wasn't all I got out of the book.

I could see myself using his teachings. I could see my craft explode in front of me - not into nothingness, but into something more. It was like a new beginning, and it gave sense to the model. I worked it out.

You see, I want to work in publishing. But publishing is a big business, and a loaded term. It could be my own business, or it could be for one of the biggies, but it's the dream. It's also not a great way to make money.

The only way I see this working is to combined writing and publishing, and the writing can't just be fiction. It needs to be non-fiction that seeks to help others. It needs to be screenplays that, if they're lucky enough to make it to cinemas as a finished film, will give people a sense of joy. I need to be able to teach people about the world in some way, shape or form. Movies change lives. They can show people something with just enough reality that the message gets through.

That's the passion - the message. That's what Ferriss couldn't show me how to deliver. That's what Lovell was guiding me towards. And Field, he finished the job, by going back to the basics, back to where my dreams started - with writing, and with the business of it.

The thing is, I didn't go looking for change. I went looking for an interesting read. The books that influence us most aren't the ones we expect to change our lives. The books that influence us just happen, mostly by accident, and that's where the pleasure lies in them. While there are other books that have helped shape my life in different ways, like Brendon Burchard's The Millionaire Messenger, there's less than a handful that actually piece together to form a cohesive model that I can follow - one that requires my own input in the making. Those are the books I'll cling to, the ones I'll return to for advice and wisdom, again and again.

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